Posted by: gschloesser | July 28, 2011

Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers

Design by:  Klaus Jürgen-Wrede
Rio Grande Games / Hans im Glück
2 – 5 Players, 1 hour
Reviewed by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This review also appears in Counter Magazine, Issue # 20

I had the opportunity to see this new Carcassonne sequel at the recent Spiel show in Essen in 2002, complete with actors dressed as a caveman and cavewoman explaining the game.  It was hard to ignore their approaches since they were carrying large clubs – which upon closer examination proved to be plastic toys!  I knew that I would ultimately purchase this new version, so I didn’t make the effort to try to play it during the convention.  I immediately purchased a copy once the Rio Grande version became available. 

The game is not a variant or addition to Carcassonne; it is a stand-alone game that can be played without owning or even having played the original Carcassonne.  However, there is no mistaking its similarities to the original as the mechanics are essentially identical.  The setting is a bit more distant, though, as players travel further back in time and are concerned with acquiring food for survival.

Since most everyone is familiar with Carcassonne, I’ll concentrate on simply explaining the major differences between the two versions of the game.  The tiles are of the same sturdy quality and depict various types of terrain, including forests, rivers, lakes and fields.  Some tiles also depict animals, which are ultimately worth points to the player who has the most hunters in those fields.  

Like Carcassonne, players choose a tile and place it to the board.  They then have the option of placing one of their five tribe members (those little ‘meeple’ figures) onto one of the terrain features of that tile.  The meeple figures here are a bit more sociable than in the basic version, as each figure has one arm raised up in an apparent friendly wave!  Since players only have five ‘meeples’ in this version, the game requires players to be a bit more judicious in their use and placement.  Like farmers, the meeples placed in the fields (referred to as hunters) will remain in place until the end of the game, but can potentially yield considerable amounts of points.  Meeples placed on other types of terrain will be returned to the owners for reuse provided the patch of terrain they are on is completed during the course of the game. 

Players earn points for controlling rivers and forests once those particular features are finished.  Rivers earn one point for each segment (like the roads in the original Carcassonne) and one point for each fish in any lakes comprising the river system.  Forests earn two points per segment.  However, the player who finishes a forest that is larger than 2 tiles draws one of the bonus tiles and may immediately play that tile to the board.  There are four types of bonus tiles: 

1)      Fire:  This chases all of the tigers out of a field.  Tigers are nasty as they devour the deer.  For some reason, the other animals don’t seem to be bothered by fire. 

2)      Mushrooms:  These are placed in a forest and add two points to a completed forest.  Comments about ‘magic mushrooms’ are sure to be rampant with this tile! 

3)      Aurochs:  Add two points to the scoring of a field.  

4)      Shrine:  If a player places a meeple onto the shrine, he will automatically control the field that it is connected to, regardless of whether the field ultimately contains other meeples (hunters) or not.  This is a very powerful tile, but one must work to develop the field or connect it to an animal-rich existing field.  

In addition to five meeples, each player also possesses two huts.  These are placed onto (or beside, actually) lakes.  This allows the player to control the entire river system connected to that lake, awarding the player 1 point per segment and 1 point per fish present in the lakes that are part of that system.  Other players may still have meeples on the actual rivers and the presence of a hut does not affect their scoring.  The idea here is to create a long and winding system of connected rivers and lakes.  Of course, your opponents will likely do their best to bring that system to an abrupt end. 

The game ends when the last tile is placed.  At this point, river systems containing huts are scored and each field is examined and scored.  The player possessing the most meeples in a field scores 2 points for each deer, mammoth and auroch in that field.  As mentioned, each tiger present in a field negates one deer for scoring purposes, with wooden tokens being provided to assist in the tallying of these points.  Meadows, as the ‘hut’ river systems, do not have to be complete in order to score. 

The game seems to offer a greater variety of placement and scoring options than the original version and, as such, seems to cause a tiny bit more downtime as players carefully analyze their options.  There also seems to be more ‘cruelty’ in this game as you can really interfere with the plans of your opponents more readily than in the original game.  Depending upon your tolerance for such hostile actions, this could be a good or bad thing. 

The new tiles do take a bit getting used to, however, as they are more ‘busy’ than the tiles in the original game.  The artwork isn’t as crisp or clear and some tiles have caused a bit of confusion. Still, this is minor and doesn’t really present an obstacle to enjoying the game. 

I, for one, have found myself pleasantly surprised by this new version.  I was expecting a ‘more of the same’ feeling and figured the sequel wouldn’t match-up to the original.  After numerous playings, I now find myself reaching for this version as opposed to the original.  I am sure this is for the most part attributable to the “newness” of this version, but I do feel there is enough new and different here to warrant keeping both games in my collection.     

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Responses

  1. Many people say this is the best of the Carc games. They are all good to me. (8/10)


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